The Big Creek Watershed

big creek reservoir image

Big Creek Hydroelectric Project

Southern California Edison’s Big Creek Hydroelectric Project has been providing clean and efficient energy since it began operating in 1913. The system includes nine powerhouses, 23 generating units, six reservoirs, and 27 dams. In total, the system has the capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of cost-effective and sustainable hydroelectric power, which is delivered to the state’s electric grid. By helping diversify Southern California Edison’s energy supply with clean resources, the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project holds a critical role in the Pathway 2045 blueprint, as well as California’s long-term electrification objectives.

Originally constructed to supply energy to Southern California, the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project also partners with local, state, and federal agencies to deliver water from the Sierra Nevada watershed to customers across the Central Valley. Together, the Big Creek reservoirs have a storage capacity of more than 560,000 acre-feet. Big Creek earned its nickname as “the hardest working water in the world” due to the volume of water that flows through this series of powerhouses, generating electricity multiple times.

In addition to supporting energy and water supply in the state, the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project facilitates recreational activities for thousands of visitors every year. SCE is also actively engaged in environmental stewardship and the protection of natural and cultural resources in the surrounding Sierra National Forest.

Anticipated Lake Levels: Big Creek Project 2024 Water Outlook

Safe Water Recreation

Southern California Edison’s number one priority is the safety of its customers, employees and the communities it serves. SCE reminds boaters, swimmers and all visitors to recreate safely while on, near or in the water at its lakes and reservoirs. Keeping a close eye on conditions, exercising caution and adhering to posted signage identifying closures or hazards can help each person have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Safety Advisory: Recreating Downstream of a Dam

A Century of Service

  • Big Creek was the first large-scale integrated hydroelectric project in the United States.
  • Construction of Big Creek Powerhouse 1 began in 1911 and was supplying electricity by 1913, using the longest and highest voltage transmission lines of its time – 243 miles and 150 kilovolts.
  • In 1921, Big Creek Powerhouse 8 became the first plant in the world designed to transmit power at 220 kilovolts.
  • Since it began operations, Big Creek has been in continuous service and currently generates enough emissions-free hydroelectricity to power 640,000 homes.

Contact Us

We remain committed to working closely with the Big Creek community, as well as our county and agency partners. Should you have questions about the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project, please contact Government Relations Manager Brian Thoburn by emailing or calling 559-685-3240.


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